Thirteen years ago, I first came across the tale of The Boy Who Lived. Every Sunday, we used to go to the bookstore and there I saw this little unassuming book. Seven installments later, like all Potterheads, I still find myself enamored of the world J.K. Rowling has conjured. I’m now in my twenties but I still feel thrilled over new releases, theories, and Buzzfeed articles.
OA na kung OA but when we went to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan, it felt like coming home. Akala mo talaga I was once a Hogwarts student noh? Haha. What they say about USJ is true, it’s crowded! Nonetheless, we made the most out of that trip because of several “strategies.”
Arrive way before the park’s operation hours
We went there on October 31 and according to the website, the park was supposed to open at 8 a.m. We arrived 40 minutes earlier and much to our delight, gates were already opened! I’m not sure why but perhaps because it was Halloween that day. Since there’s no crowd yet, we were able to enter The Wizarding World of Harry Potter without timed tickets and enjoy an unobstructed view of Hogsmeade.
Take note that USJ issues timed tickets to control the crowd. They say that these tickets run out sometimes leaving others with no chance to enter (nightmare!). Upon arriving at USJ, check first if you can enter The Wizarding World of Harry Potter without the ticket. If you can’t, RUN to the other side of the park to secure a time slot. If you can’t stay in hotels right outside USJ, book flats that are near the park. Ours was located in Namba which was half an hour away from the park.
Go straight to Forbidden Journey
Once you set foot in Harry’s world, it’s tough not to stop and take photos. “Shocks, Honeydukes! Wow, Ollivander’s! Wait, Hogwarts Express!” This was me when we entered. It’s normal to be over the moon because the things you have read may now be touched BUT you’ll be thankful later for controlling yourself.
Upon entering, we went straight to Hogwarts Castle and lined up for the famous Forbidden Journey attraction while everyone was busy having their photos taken outside. In less than 20 minutes, we were done and that’s when we started to explore the shops.
At 10 a.m., the waiting time for Forbidden Journey was already 180 minutes! There’s another ride, Flight of the Hippogriff, but we skipped it for it used to be a kiddie rollercoaster which was only rebranded.
Consider alternatives if queues for Butterbeer and Potter merchandise are snakelike
A Hogsmeade trip isn’t complete without tasting Butterbeer, but you don’t have to spend an hour in front of the red carriage waiting for your cup. Hog’s Head also offers Butterbeer sans the queue.
The Universal Studios store outside likewise sells Harry Potter merchandise. The store even sells pastries and chocolates in tin cans which I didn’t see at Honeydukes. The only downside from buying outside is that the plastic bag will be the generic Universal Studios one instead of the one depicting Harry on a broomstick.
Don’t miss the shows
Part of the charm is meeting “actual” Hogwarts students. The Tri-Wizard Competition also features students from Beauxbaton and Durmstrang. When you enter USJ, there’s a slip containing the show times. At the end of the show, guests are allowed to have their photos taken with the cast members. Since it’s Halloween, we got to meet Death Eaters too.
Make sure to return at night
We left The Wizarding World at noontime to enjoy the attractions outside. We came back at 5 p.m. but they were already issuing timed tickets. Our timed passes were then scheduled at 6:30 p.m. If you plan to visit at night, it’s best to drop by early to know if you can enter freely or if you need to secure passes. I recommend returning at night because Hogwarts Castle is spectacular!
To those whose hearts have been broken when they were deprived of that majestic acceptance letter (#muggleproblems), you could still live out your dream at The Wizarding World. I assure you, this trip is worth all the gold in Gringotts!